Colt Police Positive from The Thin Man

This weeks movie gun is the Colt Police Positive which was used in the 1934 detective film The Thin Man. The small frame double-action revolver was introduced by Colt in 1907. This beautiful specimen was engraved and presented to William Powell.

You can learn more about this gun at the NRABlog and by watching the latest installment of the Curators Corner (Click on “program Archive” button, then click the Apr 08 tab, then scroll down to “Curator’s Corner”. As of now the program is not yet online.).

Sadly this is the last gun in the movie gun series. This series was made possible by the NRA’s Senior Media Specialist Lars Dalseide. Thanks Lars! Next week we will have something different.

Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


  • Matt Groom

    Is it a Police Positive, or a Police Positive Special? What caliber is it?

  • Matt,

    The gun is a Colt Police Positive in .32 caliber. Here are some pictures for a closer look.

    Matt Sharpe
    National Firearms Museum

    • Matt, thanks for the pics.

    • Brenda Fletcher

      I bought a Colt 32 double action chrome/nickle at a pawn shop that is in better shape than the ones on the web page.

  • ThomasL

    Now, that is one worth owning.

  • John

    wow, beautiful gun. smith & weesson and colt need to make reproductions of some of these old guns. I would sure buy them…

  • Beamish

    “The Thin Man” is also the only movie I have ever seen that references “The Sullivan Act” which was the first major firearm licensing and registration law in the country (in NYC obviously).

    Gil, a Police Detective Sergeant, is in Nick and Nora’s apartment with some his “boys”:

    Gil: Mind if we look around?
    Nick: Not without a warrant…
    Gil: Says you!
    – one of the detectives starts rifling through a bureau
    Nora: What’s that man doing in my drawers!
    – Nick spits out his Rye.
    – the detective hands Gil a pistol found in the drawer (Nick had previously taken off a scared teen girl and hid it there)
    Gil: Hey, what’s this? Ain’t you heard of the Sullivan Act?
    Nora: That’s okay we’re married.

    That last line is hilarious if you get the joke. I have never met anyone who got it the first time they watched it.

  • WPZ

    I’ll go right ahead and identify myself as a Colt person, and then…
    The Police Positive (and Special) is possibly one of the best personal protection revolvers ever.
    First, the provisos: If you accept +P 158 grain semi wadcutters as an effective personal protection bullet. I pretty nearly do. Buffalo Bore’s version makes 1050fps in my PPS. That’s hot stuff.
    Then, you have to be able to accept six-shooters as satisfactory. Ten is far better. Six only might be enough. Ten could very well be. That’s a notable difference.
    Yes, thirty .308s is much closer to enough.
    Anyway, the PP(S) is the progenitor of the Detective Special, that snub being merely a shortened PPS.
    The frame size is ideal for a portable .38, compact and just exactly the right weight. Even among Smith fans, if you get them lubed up well enough, they’ll nearly all confess to having a DS somewhere, and lots of them will admit to actually carrying it.
    The four-inch version is a superior device for delivering bullets and as old Skeeter Skelton so often pointed out, for a belt gun, an extra inch or two makes a snub far more useful: you’ll hit better.
    It so happens that I put on USPSA and IDPA matches in this neck of the woods, and it also so happens my March IDPA match was tilted towards “carry guns”, close and fast and all 12-round stages to eliminate reloads as as big factor.
    I found time to actually sneak in and shoot my own match for a change (eight stages for 96 rounds), and put aside my DS for my Police Positive Special stoked with +P reloads and using Safariland Comp IIIs (they work fine on D-frames).
    In a field of 34, I managed a fourth-overall finish. With a small, light, carry revolver, and trailed only a 1911 and two G19s. (Incidentally, the winning G19 was in the hands of an actual female person, the second match I’ve ever been to won overall by a woman. She thinks I put on good matches, natch.)
    The Police Positive Special is still a useful tool.

  • The .38 version of that was basically the Glock of its day. Decently accurate, light to carry and very reliable. Once decent hollow points came out it became a pretty effective gun and even now it would still be a good defensive arm.

    Its shorter cousin, the Detectives Special is of course of the most useful handguns every made.